Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration for consumers, and many people have made shifts toward not only supporting sustainable brands and products, but also living more sustainable lifestyles.

For homeowners, this may mean creating a more sustainable home. Whether building a home from scratch, upgrading an existing home, or simply looking for some quick solutions, homeowners have a variety of opportunities to make their homes more environmentally friendly—and lower costs in the long run as well.

Let’s take a look at some of the top ways to create a sustainable home, no matter what stage of the process your home is in.

 

Creating a Sustainable Home: Building/Retrofitting

Those looking to build a new home or make large-scale renovations to an existing home have major opportunities to create a sustainable home. Depending on factors like space or budget, there are a number of ways to integrate sustainability into the fabric of the home from the ground up.

 

Start with an eco-friendly location and layout

When beginning from square one, choosing a location and designing a layout that is environmentally conscious will make all subsequent decisions on sustainability much more effective.

In terms of location, there are a variety of factors to consider—including those outside of the home itself. For example, building in an area with access to public transportation can help reduce the need to use a vehicle. Additionally, consider the direction the home is facing. Having the largest surface areas facing east and west will help keep internal temperatures stable—while south-facing windows can increase natural light. If you’re planning to utilize solar panels, ensure that they will be south-facing for maximum sunlight.

Though layout can be modified post-build, drafting a sustainable home from scratch is the best way to achieve a truly optimal design. It’s best to build upward as taller homes are more energy efficient than wider homes. This is due to taller homes having less surface areas per square foot. Additionally, uniform shapes—such as a cube—are more energy efficient than irregular designs.

 

Utilize recycled building materials

Recycled building materials help to reduce the environmental impact typically associated with traditional building materials. Not only do traditional materials use more resources and energy when created, but these materials end up in landfills when discarded.

There are many recycled building material options available. When building a sustainable home, consider using materials such as reclaimed wood or brick, rubber slate or recycled asphalt shingles, or recycled glass. In situations where recycled materials aren’t available, opting for locally sourced, recyclable building material can alleviate the environmental burden.

 

Implement living walls or a living roof

One of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to create a sustainable home is to incorporate living elements into the design. A living roof or wall—also referred to as a green roof/wall—features a water-retention layer that allows for plants like grasses or shrubs to grow on the surface. The dense plant growth acts as natural insulators for the home, making living walls or roofs energy efficient and eco friendly—not to mention being stunning to look at.

 

Install energy efficient doors and windows

Exterior doors and windows can be major sources of lost energy. Drafty doors and windows can increase energy consumption and raise energy bills—so for sustainable homes, installing high-performance doors and windows is paramount.

Fiberglass doors are often the best option for energy-efficient exterior doors. For windows, consider Low-E and/or double glazed glass options. For colder climates, triple glazed windows are a good choice for retaining heat. For both doors and windows, look for Energy Star certified options.

 

Try a non-traditional home style

Non-traditional options for building a home have increased as homeowners seek sustainable solutions. Therefore, if you’re interested in a sustainable home, a few non-traditional options include:

  • Prefabricated Homes: Prefabricated (or prefab) homes are primarily built in factories and then transported to the build site for assembly. Prefab homes have a lower environmental impact being that they are efficiently constructed and transported.
  • Shipping Container Homes: As the name suggests, shipping container homes are built using recycled shipping containers. If needed, multiple shipping containers can be used to create the home.
  • Tiny Homes: While not for everyone, tiny homes are a great sustainable home option due to their lower energy requirements and smaller physical footprint. These homes typically range between 100 - 400 square feet making them ideal for minimalists or those who spend a majority of their time outdoors.

 

Creating a Sustainable Home: Energy/Appliances

One of the best ways of creating a sustainable home is to utilize renewable energy or energy-efficient solutions.

 

Utilize the sun

Solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy—and for good reason. Solar panels can be relatively easy to install and represent significant long term savings on energy. Best of all, the cost to invest in solar energy has gone down significantly thanks to technological advancements, making it easier than ever to get started with solar.

Additionally, you may opt for geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal systems also harness the sun’s energy, but in a different way than solar panels—these systems absorb energy that is stored in the ground. Therefore, this energy can be utilized day and night. Geothermal systems also represent significant long-term energy savings in addition to their environmental benefits.

 

Use high quality, eco-friendly insulation

Insulation plays a major role in the overall energy efficiency of the home. Therefore, creating a sustainable home should always include using high-quality, high-efficiency insulation to cut energy consumption. This means familiarizing with the R value, or the resistance rating, or insulation. The higher the R value, the more insulation.

However, traditional insulation options are often made from materials that are hazardous to the environment. Eco-friendly options like sheep’s wool or cork provide strong, natural insulation. Manufacturing these types of insulation is entirely sustainable—production of cork insulation is even a carbon negative process.

 

Install a smart thermostat

Smart home technology is great for a sustainable home, and arguably no piece is more important than a smart thermostat. In conjunction with renewable heating and cooling, smart thermostats can help control the overall energy usage in the home by adapting and optimizing heating and cooling output.

 

Invest in eco-friendly appliances

Alongside heating and cooling, appliances are generally one of the top energy consumers in the home. Investing in eco-friendly, energy-efficient appliances can dramatically reduce the overall energy being used, contributing to a sustainable home and providing energy savings in the process.

Appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, and laundry machines typically use the most energy, so starting with these can make a significant difference. Look for appliances marked as Energy Star certified for best results.

 

Creating a Sustainable Home: Everyday Options

For those looking to make small or simple changes to create a more sustainable home, the good news is the options are plentiful. While large-scale changes can have major impacts, creating a sustainable home involves the little things as well.

 

Use LED light bulbs

LED light bulbs provide the most energy efficiency compared with other light bulbs. Not only do they feature far less wasted energy than other light sources—especially traditional incandescent bulbs. They also have a much longer lifespan.

For maximum performance, smart LED light bulbs are a great choice for sustainable homes. These bulbs add a number of features to the already strong energy efficiency of LED bulbs, including the ability to turn lights off when not at home or automatically switching lights off when no one is in the room.

 

Try a compost bin

A compost bin is a simple, sustainable solution for homes. Composting helps reduce waste, improves soil health, conserves water, and reduces greenhouse gasses.

 

Use natural household cleaners

Choosing natural, eco-friendly cleaning products can go a long way in maintaining a sustainable home. Traditional cleaning products often contain chemicals that can negatively impact the environment—and some may carry health risks as well.

There are a variety of eco-friendly options available, but in some instances, natural cleaners may already be available in the home. For example, baking soda is a versatile option for deodorizing or cleaning surfaces. You can also use baking soda and vinegar as a natural solution for unclogging a drain.

 

Plant a garden

A garden is a great way to benefit the environment while also benefiting personal health as well. Growing fresh fruits or vegetables can encourage healthy eating habits while practicing sustainable food production. For best results, optimize the garden for minimal water usage.

 

Create a Sustainable Home Today

Creating a sustainable home doesn’t happen overnight. The first step in the process is being cognizant of the environmental impact of each aspect of the home, whether it be during the initial design process or everyday life. Making well-informed decisions on energy efficiency and eco-friendliness will not only provide positive results for the environment, but also represent long-term savings as well.

Sustainability is a growing industry—especially as it relates to the home. Speaking to a sustainability expert can provide even more insight into how to make the best choices to create the most sustainable home. That being said, no change is too small, and it’s never too late to get started on creating a sustainable home.